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Concussion Bill helps protect youth athletes

Hospital news | Thursday, June 7, 2012

Contact: Sasha Dull

Nearly four million recreational and sports-related concussions are estimated to occur each year in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is critical for athletes, parents and coaches to be educated about the dangers of returning to play too quickly. More than 35 states have recently passed youth sports concussion legislation based on Washington's Zackery Lystedt Law of 2006. Many more are currently considering similar laws. In April, Wisconsin passed Concussion Law-Act 172.

“Sports concussions are brain injuries, and they must be taken seriously to protect our youth and prevent long-term consequences,” explains Penny Grassel, Licensed Athletic Trainer at Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital. “Passing this legislation is a step forward in increasing awareness and providing the best opportunity for proper care of our young athletes, so they may fully recover and play again.”

The law requires immediate removal of an individual from a youth athletic activity if symptoms indicate that a possible concussion has been sustained. If a concussion is confirmed, individuals may only return to competition or practice after being evaluated by a trained health care provider. The health care provider is required to provide written clearance in order for the athlete to return to play.

The law also requires all youth athletic organizations to educate coaches, student-athletes and parents on the risks of concussions and prohibits participation in a youth activity until a parent or guardian has returned a signed information sheet indicating they have reviewed the materials. In addition, the State Department of Public Instruction, with assistance from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, was directed to develop guidelines and other information to educate coaches, athletes and parents about the risk of concussions and head injuries in all sports. This means any youth participating on a club, city rec or school sponsored team must have a signed form before they can participate.  (For more information on concussion education/forms please go to: www.wiaawi.org)

One tool used to evaluate concussions and help guide return to play decisions is computerized neuro-cognitive testing. Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital has partnered with local schools Prairie du Chien, River Ridge and Wauzeka to better manage concussions sustained by student athletes. All high school student athletes in these districts are required to take the ImPACT (Immediate Post Cocussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) computerized exam prior to the start of their sports season.

Mark Seeley is also a licensed athletic trainer at PDC Memorial. He adds, “The ImPACT test is similar to a pre-season physical of the brain. It tracks information such as memory, reaction time, and concentration. If your child suffers a head injury, and a concussion is suspected, the child will be referred to a health care organization for evaluation.  The medical professional may recommend that the child take the post-injury ImPACT test administered by a Licensed Athletic Trainer. Once the athlete is cleared by the physician and their post test has returned to baseline, they will follow a gradual return to play protocol under the direction of a Licensed Athletic Trainer.

To educate area residents on concussions Mark Seeley, MS, LAT and Penny Grassel, LAT have provided in-services to local physicians and coaches. They have also educated parents and students at annual athletic code meetings at River Ridge and Prairie du Chien High Schools.  For more information on concussions go to: www.wiaawi.org. Licensed Athletic Trainers may be reached at Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital’s Rehabilitation Services at 608.357.2000.